Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, The Library Company of Philadelphia is America's oldest cultural institution and was once the largest public library in America, until the Civil War. Its mission is to foster scholarship in and increase public understanding of American history before 1900 by preserving, interpreting, and making available its non-circulating collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, and works of art.
The Library Company of Philadelphia will present Redrawing History: Indigenous Perspectives on Colonial America, a newly commissioned graphic novel and exhibition that will re-contextualize 18th-century historic events from the perspective of indigenous communities. Native American artists—illustrator Weshoyot Alvitre of the Tongva people and writer Lee Francis from the Laguna Pueblo—will collaborate on the novel, drawing from previously unexamined materials in the library’s collection, such as diary entries, letters, and political cartoons. The artists will reference “The Digital Paxton”—a web-based humanities archive produced by Library Company fellow Will Fenton—to retell the little-known story of the 1763 massacre, by armed settlers, of the Conestoga Tribe in Paxton Township, near what is present-day Harrisburg, PA. Native Realities Press, the preeminent publisher of Native American comics, will publish the novel and distribute it to more than 550 federally-recognized tribes. The book will also include a curriculum to facilitate its use in high school classrooms. The accompanying exhibition at the Library Company will feature Alvitre’s illustrations, alongside artifacts and materials from the library’s collection.
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